No praise for Pandora in Corel's box of beasties

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 April, 1996, 12:00am

In Greek mythology, Pandora was a very special creature.

Zeus, it is said, was unhappy about the arrogance and antics of Prometheus who was constantly fooling the gods with his tricks and practical jokes. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to make a woman out of clay and because she received so many gifts, she was given the name Pandora, the receiver of gifts.

Zeus gave her, however, one more gift, a beautifully ornamented box. This she was to give to the man she married.

Prometheus was not fooled but his brother Epimetheus was and so married Pandora.

When he opened the box she gave him out sprang most of the evils and nasty emotions that now plague the world. The only one to remain in the box was Eplis or Hope.

It is an odd story, to say the least. I have always wondered what the point was: Should people not be curious? Should women not be curious? We seem to condemn the curious a lot in occidental mythology. Need one mention the tree of knowledge and its forbidden fruit? Like Eve, Pandora is condemned for doing the one thing that we have come to value most in our world: seek knowledge.

How curious, then, that a CD-ROM should be made that tells this story in music, song and animation. According to the blurb, this CD-ROM is intended for children aged six to 12.

Assuming, then, that we want our children to learn a simplified version of the story - there is, to name but one example, no mention in this version that Pandora's sole reason for existence is to help Zeus punish Prometheus - how well does Corel execute the program? In my opinion not very well.

The story is told by one of the most irritating female voices I have heard in a long time. She seems to think speaking to children means talking down to them. As the story is told, the words appear on the screen and some are underlined so the child can click on the word and get a definition, assuming the child knows this is what an underlined word means.

Pandora also sings, unfortunately, and we are given the choice to sing along.

The voice is pleasant enough and perhaps some would like it, but it strikes me that it was only added because they could not think of anything else to do with 650 megabytes of CD-ROM space.

Most of this CD-ROM involves watching animation, making it little better than a video. Indeed, the model for this production seems to have been that of a television programme for children. Its minimal 'interaction' is pathetically simplistic. Some of the characters appear in black and white outline and the player can choose a few colours and fill in the white bits. How exciting! I am particularly hostile to this CD-ROM because of its implied message - be curious about the world and you will be punished, or worse, you will let loose the Furies.

It is perhaps interesting to note that one of the most important aspects to the story of Pandora is left out. Elpis is not thought by all to be 'Hope'. There are those who interpret it as 'Luck', particularly the luck a gambler seeks.

One would do better to put the money for this CD-ROM on a horse rather than risk it on a child.

Pandora's Box for Win 3.1, Mac OS 8MB RAM, 16-bit SoundBlaster. Tested on a Power Mac 8500